Published: June 5th 2012June 5th 2012
Kpop pretty boys
flogging some drink or other
I almost could not believe it but a few minutes ago, at almost 11 PM, it actually started raining on the tile roof - naturally just after I had done my daily wash (the traveller's essential to keep up with). However it now seems to have stopped. It has been a very steady max 28° every day virtually for the last week or more and although there is some vaguely stormy weather indications from Yahoo for later in the week there was nothing forecast this early. Nevertheless it is my intention to give you a quick update to the real present time (given the live commentary beginning of this).
I sent off the last blog this morning from my hanok in Bukchon, which is the broad name given to the traditional area between the two main palaces already covered. A hanok is essentially a traditional courtyard style house, this one with three rooms around it. Fortunately I seem to be the only occupant tonight, as the other couple, who strangely enough were from Sydney, or at least the guy was from Parramatta, with his Filipino consort, left this morning to go to Jeju Island right down south. Anyway about two
my Bukchon hanok room
aka hard floor sleeping
nights on a hard floor is about all I can likely cope with as I did not have much sleep last night. It is all very well to honour the tradition but there are limits!
I walked from the first real hotel (the Sutton) to my "love hotel" at the City Park, and it was an even shorter walk to this place. There are otherwise practical considerations in such moves on the metro like the number of subway stairs you have to carry your bag as as escalators will only cover on average half of the distance. I will be leaving tomorrow for three nights to another hotel at Sinchon which is to the west of here and has affordable prices (Seoul hotels can be the "sky is the limit") and booking ones that do not take credit card is unfortunately not possible given my current available cash reserves on my 28 Degrees credit card which is paid into credit for this purpose as it does not charge for withdrawals (or in fact for credit card use overseas). This endless moving around so to speak exposes me to a number of neighbourhoods in Seoul and as I will likely
Bukchon hanok room
from the courtyard
be here for two weeks or so in total this seems useful to me.
As a result on my concentration in the areas north of the business district so to speak I have barely seen Insadong which is a fairly highly trafficked precinct, not to mention the main foreign enclave of Itaewon. However I finally got to experience Itaewon tonight, which turned out to be a typical (foreign) tourist strip as much as anything in Seoul - with the result I did not rate it at all, given my down home neighbourhood. However fortunately I was able to track down a fantastic restaurant called OKitchen, thanks to my reference on the tablet to the digital Rough Guide to Seoul. It was not even a struggle to find it and I just happened upon the right laneway.
The owner is actually an Okinawan and we had quite a few chats during the course of the meal. He said that because he sometimes travels on his own he makes a point of talking to solo diners. In this case the food certainly spoke for itself and I did not really need much encouragement to have the tasting menu which was
escalators in there somewhere
essentially six courses for 57,000 Kr won - which is about $50AU. But food of this quality in Australia (think Rockpool like levels) would likely cost you $100 or more, so it was a relative bargain and I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone with the gastronomic cash. And being the photo dude that I am I even took snaps to prove it!
The first fish tasting plate was of nine different kinds of fish -- the green one at the top right-hand corner was he explained a Mexican style one (green chilli type sauce?). These were all superb, even the Korean style one which he said as an Okinawan he did not like. The second plate was described on the menu as mascarpone polenta cake with quail's egg, white truffle, rucola and sautee mushroom. The third plate was a roast beet and apple salad with walnuts etc. Then my old standby puttanesca pasta (tagliatelle) - which was every bit as good as mine, with probably better quality capers! Then the chosen main was of course (thank you S for the drum roll) duck breast described as being with "almond puree, fennel sand & pickles, Bulgur salad, orange confit
with strange title
and dried black olive" (phew!). Sometimes I wonder about this exhaustive menu minutiae, unless they want to exclude people with dietary problems. Then there was a dessert as well! With a glass or Chilean sauvignon blanc on the way, along with a Chilean merlot. The owner threw in a complimentary glass of the house made limoncello as I asked him about it. Sorry if this is turning into a food blog but just look at the pictures then! One of the best overall meals I have had for a while.
Prior to that I really only had time to have a quick look for about an introductory hour at the National Museum of Korea - its free but I will go back tomorrow to pay (about $10) and look at the major travelling exhibition which comes with material from Istanbul.
Yesterday, well I went over to Technomart, another huge electronic eight storey mall and had a two hour wander around looking at cameras and technical bits and bobs and found the lens I bought the previous day, but at a higher price, so I was happy.
The only other happening place I have been was last night
Hongdae BBQ place
copper vents are not hubba bubba!
I went to the hippest place in the country, Hongdae (nr Hongdik Uni) where all the groovy young things keep the cutting edge of fashion boutiques and coffee shops open until 10 PM or 11 even on a Monday night. I actually had quite a nice reasonably simple Japanese tontoro don rice dish there somewhere, when I was about despairing with the number of coffee shops (which charge up to 4,000Krw for a coffee while you can eat a whole meal for 6-7,000Krw ($5-6), despite their trendy decor (I ultimately had a green tea latte in one, figuring that would not keep me up all night - the hard floor did that!),
If you have read this far I am relatively well settled into Seoul by now and am getting around quite easily on the subway, or so I have at this stage only been going from one or two stations. Naturally I have an electronic Tcard for this (I just reloaded another 10,000 Krw ($9) on this tonight). It costs $1 a ride basically unless it is more than 8 or so stops in which case you have to pay 10 cents extra or something. Language has not
been a problem as I simply have to rely on their use of English!
There are more photos below